The Saw

Art Type
Original Drawing
Original graphite, coloured pencil, oil stick drawing on paper
Original Drawing
Size (in)
(H x W): 22 x 39 ½ in
Size (cm)
(H x W): 56 x 100 cm
Not Framed
Product ID



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‘The Saw’ by Jutai Toonoo — Cape Dorset Inuit Art from Dorset Fine Arts 2010 original hand drawing collection presented by DaVic Gallery of Native Canadian Arts.

Condition:          No condition to be noted.

Description by Artist:     No description by artist found.

Notes from DaVic Gallery:  Wood and metal, blending together, forming a saw… Is it a typical object to be depicted in Inuit Art? Would you have considered this drawing to be Inuit Art had it not come from Dorset Fine Arts? You are right to wonder about the meaning of the piece and question its origins. It is not typical Inuit Art. It is Inuit Art by Jutai Toonoo.

Toonoo’s drawings cast a spell on us, making us stop and pay close attention to his works. Often, as with this drawing, we are not quite sure what we are looking at although we fully understand we are looking at a simple, recognizable object: in this case, a saw. Toonoo’s magic is in the way he breathes life into his works, even when depicting inanimate objects such as a Falling Cup. As viewers, we can feel the intense energy Toonoo puts into reflecting seemingly ordinary life. That energy demands to be noticed, to be understood. It demands that we receive what it is expressing on behalf of the artist. That is key to understanding Toonoo’s works: expression.

What makes this particular composition intense? The bright orange colour surrounding the object, which happens to be a hand saw, blasts us with its exuberance, nearly knocking us off our feet. We can’t look away. The nearly uniform bright colour creates a negative space in the middle that is perceived by us as a saw. What’s more, with hardly noticeable darker shading around the object, Toonoo creates a third dimension. The saw appears floating right above the surface. 

But we still grapple with understanding the intention behind the artwork. What is being expressed? What is the significance of the saw to the artist? Is it the fact that he has seen it being relied upon as a builder’s tool? Or perhaps it is a reflection of how much life has changed for the Inuit in the last century?  

In one century, the Inuit were forced to abandon their nomadic way of life. They had to transition to settled culture dependent on economy and highly influenced by the modern world. New objects the outside world brought to them became everyday, trivial objects. 

Perhaps the juxtaposition of the two colours reflects the trivial that isn’t. Perhaps Toonoo signals the intensity of the change via the intensity of the background colour, offsetting the saw. And that makes it impossible for us to relegate the saw to the world of trivial objects. After all, there is nothing trivial about the profound changes that had to take place in the Inuit culture for the saw to become a part of Inuit lifestyle.

The intensity of the colour Toonoo produces in this drawing and the depth of emotion it evokes are akin to those of Mark Rothko’s, painted in abstract expressionist style. Taken together – the cultural background of the artist, the unusual object, the mastery of expression – these elements elevate the value of this rare piece of art, making it a must-have for any Inuit Art connoisseur.